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Sex differences in direct healthcare costs following stroke: a population-based cohort study

Yu AYX, Krahn M, Austin PC, Rashid M, Fang J, Porter J, Vyas MV, Bronskill SE, Smith EE, Swartz RH, Kapral MK. BMC Health Serv Res. 2021; 21(1):619. Epub 2021 Jun 29. DOI:

Background — The economic burden of stroke on the healthcare system has been previously described, but sex differences in healthcare costs have not been well characterized. We described the direct person-level healthcare cost in men and women as well as the various health settings in which costs were incurred following stroke.

Methods — In this population-based cohort study of patients admitted to hospital with stroke between 2008 and 2017 in Ontario, Canada, we used linked administrative data to calculate direct person-level costs in Canadian dollars in the one-year following stroke. We used a generalized linear model with a gamma distribution and a log link function to compare costs in women and men with and without adjustment for baseline clinical differences. We also assessed for an interaction between age and sex using restricted cubic splines to model the association of age with costs.

Results — We identified 101,252 patients (49% were women, median age [Q1-Q3] was 76 years [65–84]). Unadjusted costs following stroke were higher in women compared to men (mean ± standard deviation cost was $54,012 ± 54,766 for women versus $52,829 ± 59,955 for men, and median cost was $36,703 [$16,496–$72,227] for women versus $32,903 [$15,485–$66,007] for men). However, after adjustment, women had 3% lower costs compared to men (relative cost ratio and 95% confidence interval 0.97 [0.96,0.98]). The lower cost in women compared to men was most prominent among people aged over 85 years (p for interaction = 0.03). Women incurred lower costs than men in outpatient care and rehabilitation, but higher costs in complex continuing care, long-term care, and home care.

Conclusions — Patterns of resource utilization and direct medical costs were different between men and women after stroke. Our findings inform public payers of the drivers of costs following stroke and suggest the need for sex-based cost-effectiveness evaluation of stroke interventions with consideration of costs in all care settings.

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